Newswise — The Penn Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease has received a $5 million commitment from Mark Winkelman and his family. The generous donation from Winkelman, a former chair of the Penn Medicine Board, will help support and build upon the center’s personalized, family-based approach to care and strengthen its research efforts.
The Center which was created in 2015, aims to better treat and understand cardiovascular diseases caused by genetic abnormalities. Changes in the blueprint of the body, or the DNA, can lead to various types of heart disease including an abnormal heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) or enlarged aorta. Although many changes in the genetic code have been identified, there is much to learn about which changes later cause disease, posing a major challenge in patient care.
“For us, in the early stages of the Center, this generous donation from the Winkelman family is a real game-changer,” said Anjali Tiku Owens, MD, medical director of the Center and an assistant professor of Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “It will strengthen our ability to offer the patient-oriented, detailed, and personalized level of care needed to treat patients with these diseases. It will also allow us to conduct cutting-edge research that may not have been funded through the traditional channels.”
The gift from the Winkelman family will be spread out over five years, starting in 2018, and will help support clinical care, additional faculty and fellows, outreach and education, and much-needed laboratory and clinical research for inherited cardiovascular diseases. The Penn Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease is one of only a few in the country to address the unique needs of not only individuals with hereditary heart conditions, but also their families who may be at risk by providing genetic counseling and testing as well as appropriate follow-up care. Early recognition and treatment of these conditions can prevent heart failure or sudden death.
“I’m delighted that Mr. Winkelman shares our vision, and I’m incredibly grateful and excited to see what this gift will allow us to accomplish,” Owens added.
Mark Winkelman, a member of the Board of Directors at Goldman, Sachs & Co, has a longstanding relationship with the University of Pennsylvania. Serving most recently as chair of the board at Penn Medicine for five years, and graduating with an MBA from Penn’s Wharton School, he is also a Trustee Emeritus of University’s Board of Trustees. “This cause is very near to our family and we are proud to make a gift to support the Penn Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease, Winkelman said. “We are confident that the Penn Medicine team will advance the field through research discoveries and clinical applications. Our hope is that this gift will help provide resources for the team to continue their mission and change the lives of patients for generations to come.”
The Center takes an interdisciplinary approach to care and research that involves physicians and researchers from departments across Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, including cardiology, genetics, surgery, radiology, and obstetrics/gynecology. The center evolved from Penn’s Familial Cardiomyopathy Program, which began in 2011 when Owens joined the faculty at Penn with a vision for creating a multidisciplinary family-based clinic to treat inherited cardiomyopathies including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy. Since then, the Center has expanded its clinical and research scope to include a wider variety of inherited cardiac diseases. For many patients with these diseases, earlier detection through genetic sequencing and testing could enable earlier monitoring and treatment with medications, devices and lifestyle changes.
The Center aims to improve the tools used to find early disease and to prevent it from progressing. In many cases of inherited heart disease, there is a 50 percent chance of passing on an abnormal genetic change from a parent with disease to a child, although not all individuals who inherit the abnormal genetic change will go on to develop the disease. One focus of the newly funded research will be to identify genetic, environmental or lifestyle factors that trigger onset of disease.
“With the Winkelman family’s partnership, the Penn Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease will not only take major steps to unravel which genetic changes cause heart disease, it will begin to demonstrate a model of truly personalized genetic medicine, focused on heart disease,” Owens said. “Once realized, this unique model would begin to transform the standard of care.”
Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $7.8 billion enterprise.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $405 million awarded in the 2017 fiscal year.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, a leading provider of highly skilled and compassionate behavioral healthcare.
Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2017, Penn Medicine provided more than $500 million to benefit our community.